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Zero Waste: Precycling

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, of getting together with family and friends and sharing the gifts of the season. This is also the most wasteful time of the year. In fact, North Americans produce 25% more waste during this time of year than any other, which equates to 25 million extra tons of garbage going to the landfill. The Whole Foods Market Green Mission Team has gathered our favorite tips to feature on this blog throughout the holidays to help us all reduce our load. We know our customers are some of the greenest folks around, so please share your tips with us too. Hopefully we'll help each other discover new and creative ways to live lighter on the planet this holiday season. Precycling From Wikipedia: "Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by attempting to avoid bringing into the home or business items which will generate waste." Good luck with THAT this time of year, right?! Well, let's break it down even more. According to Jim McConnell, Whole Foods Market supply specialist who works in our Rocky Mountain region, "Precycling relates to what one can do to eliminate waste or prevent using a 'disposable' item prior to using it. An example would be to drink water from a reusable bottle, rather than buy water in a plastic bottle-even if the bottle is recyclable. This saves unsustainable resources from being used to create the bottle; and it saves the resources needed to recycle it." We've already talked about cards, lights, and trees…if you apply the concept of precycling to gift tags, for example, this would be reusing holiday cards that you have already received as gift tags instead of buying them. Gift wrap is easy to precycle - we are going to talk about that in our next post though, so stay tuned. A good way to precycle is to look at the packaging of the gift you are about to buy. Is it reusable, or is it wrapped in plastic that will end up in the landfill? Or does the manufacturer care about the environment and it's wrapped in cardboard, or in something you can reuse, or better yet, not packaged at all? If you can get out and shop for gifts at a local store, you can avoid ordering gifts online that typically get shipped in boxes with Styrofoam peanuts that will just end up in your garage until the end of time. For all of you out there who want to learn more about precycling, here's a great book that I highly recommend: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. These guys take this to a whole new level. Says my friend Lee Kane, Whole Foods Market's North Atlantic Regional Green Mission Specialist: "In cradle to cradle terms, the answer is one of design; if everything was ultimately designed to become technical or biological nutrients at 'end-of-life' there would be no 'waste' to contend with." What are you going to precycle this holiday season?